Strolling Down the [AV]

By Maeve Maddox

Just when I thought I’d developed a thicker skin regarding linguistic innovation!

I was listening to classical music on my local NPR station the other morning when the DJ launched into some public service announcements.

The first time she said [av] for avenue I wasn’t sure I’d heard correctly, but then she mentioned another address that included the word avenue. Again she said [av]. And then, leaving no doubt whatever, she pronounced a third address as “Central [av].”

Say it isn’t so!

I need the help of you readers on this one. Googling won’t help me figure out if this is a trend or merely a local aberration. Please let me know if you have heard anyone pronounce the abbreviated form of Avenue as anything other than [ăv’ə-nū’] or [ăv’ə-nyū’]

For the record, avenue, abbreviated Ave. or Av., came into the language as a military term meaning “a way of approach.” Now it refers to a wide street lined with trees or, in some cases, a street having a planted median.

In British usage an avenue is the roadway leading from the gate to the front of a country house, like the lovely tree-shaded approach to Manderly in the movie Rebecca.

I suppose I shouldn’t be too astonished. The word versus, abbreviated vs. or v. is now universally pronounced [vee].

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33 Responses to “Strolling Down the [AV]”

  • Karla

    Oh, worse yet–you’re really going to hate this one: many people, including my own brother, instead of versus says “verse”!! ARGH!!

  • Cindy Cotter

    It’s quite common to hear “avenue” abbreviated to “ave” in street names — like “Central Ave,” though I don’t think I’ve ever heard it shortened that way when not part of a street name … as in “strolling down the avenue.”

  • Susan Ford

    Growing up in New England – Rhode Island specifically almost everyone used AV when referring to Smithfield Av or Resevoir AV. But sometimes instead of naming the the specific AV people said I am going to “the avenue”.

  • Dean @ Pro Copy Tips

    This is pretty common in the business world. It’s where BOGO came from, buy one get one. Sig: Signature. Memo: memorandum. When you abbreviate something frequently, the abbreviation will eventually become a word.

  • Brad K.

    To ave and ave not, I guess, is the way. Or something.

    I have heard “ave.” used as a word “ave” often enough over the last few years that, yes, ave is now a word similar to ain’t – it just got used by too many people to stop the madness.

    I have only heard the “vee” pronunciation for versus or vs. in legal context. The software people I have worked with didn’t use the word all that often, and less likely to take liberties with it.

    Using “comp” for compiler, now, or “make” for using the make utility to recompile modified and dependent software entities, that is common enough.

  • yodz

    Av is an accepted everyday lingo in major cities when referring to a particular street [avenue] even before the SMS popularity. But using it on radio, hmmm I think I have to agree that it’s inappropriate.

  • Dee

    Hello, I come from Manila and have just only recently stumbled upon your site. (Love it, btw). Back here, we pronounce Avenue–yes–as [av], but only when it goes with the specific street name; e.g. Ayala [Av] or Quezon [Av]. I find it really amusing that you find it amusing and haven’t really thought about why we shorten the word till now. Agree with Cindy that we don’t use it when it’s not part of a street name.

  • Janice Ritter

    re: Avenue vs. [Av]….
    Just a thought:
    In Boston, some major roads are always referred to by “ave”. “Comm Ave” for Commonwealth Avenue, “Mass Ave” for Massachusetts Avenue. This form is usually used for main roads with long names, but sometimes the convention is applied to any major road in the area.

    Janice

  • Jeannine

    Jen Lancaster, the best-selling author of such memoirs as “Bitter is the New Black”, “Bright Lights, Big Ass” and “Pretty in Plaid” frequently refers to Michigan Avenue in Chicago in her books. Unfortunately, however, she uses the word Ave with no punctation, even when it’s in the middle of a sentence. I haven’t checked, but I assume if you listen to the audiobook, the narrator will pronouce the word as [av].

  • Tom Clarke

    Right! That ranks right up there with (mis)using ECT to abbreviate et cetera or the latest fashion of saying “I am looking to buy”! Aargh! I know, talk like a pirate was last week!
    Tom

  • Jeff Gee

    I don’t recall ever hearing it pronounced as [av] here in Michigan (United States), and I’m glad. It’s lazy.

  • KathieB

    Um, this isn’t new… I grew up on an avenue in a small town in Pennsylvania (hardly a hotbed of linguistic innovation) and it was always called [av] as far back as I can remember. That would stretch to the early 1960s.

    I can also recall the use of [av] for avenue in general stretching back about that far–teen parlance–“bopping the ave.” for driving up and down the street.

  • poch

    Maybe the real root word of ‘avenue’ is ‘A venue’?

  • Mary Hodges

    I’ve never come across av as an abbreviation for avenue in speech, only in writing – like rd for road or st for street or dr for drive.

    v for versus is common – at least in British English usage – when talking about football or other team sports. Come to think of it I can’t imagine anyone actually saying “The Liverpool versus Manchester United match”.

  • Ellen

    I think “Av” is slang (like “Dot Ave” in Boston, which is short for Dorchester Avenue and is always pronounced with an accent only a Bostonian could love). I’d generally hope for better on an NPR station.

    But Av isn’t nearly as bad as “v” instead of versus. By the time the listener figures out what she heard, the speaker has moved on.

    When my kids were playing youth soccer, they would often ask me on gameday, “Who are we versing today?” That’s cute for a 6-year-old, but not so much for an adult.

    And thanks for the e-book!

  • Charlie

    Av in speech?? That is a new one on me. To see Ave. in an address, yes. But not to hear it. But then it is no surprise given the extensive use of text speak.

  • GoingLikeSixty

    Midwest and upper south, I’ve heard it as ‘av’ but usually by people in larger cities. Smaller cities and towns, don’t have to distinguish between Ave. and St. because there isn’t more than one ‘Central.’

  • Jay

    I just have to thank God that nothing has happened to the word, “Boulevard” (abbr. Blvd). Avenues do not always have to be tree-lined or have a planted median, but Boulevards should be the standard there and never be abbreviated… my Chicago-based two cents.

  • Michele | Writer’s Round-About

    I’m in Missouri and I’ve always, always noticed that people in these parts say and write “Ave” instead of the whole word. I always say and write “Avenue” – it’s one of the things that drives me bonkers!

  • Vince

    It’s quite common for (British) English people to abbreviate avenue with “av”. However, it is a colloquialism and I’d be surprised to hear it used in a broadcast medium. In fact, Londoners often abbreviate even the simplest words to a single syllable – for instance, “caff” for café.

  • Cassie Tuttle

    Here, in Pennsylvania, “ave” in conversation is not common (though I have heard it used on rare occasions).

    I worked at a law firm for 26 years, so the use of “v” (for versus), in conversation, on the other hand, is common — and quite natural to me.

    So I think the usage of “av” (like “v.”) depends on a person’s geographic location and business practice.

    Dean makes a good point about the evolution of language and words (memorandum to memo, signature to sig, compensation to comp, and so on). Over time, this is what language does.

    And Jay, I agree with you — so glad “boulevard” hasn’t morphed the way “ave” seems to be doing! Same with “street” and “road,” just to name a few. 🙂

  • Peach

    Boulevard hasn’t morphed because its abbreviation – BLVD. – is unpronounceable.

  • Brad K.

    @ Peach – I *saw* this one coming.

    A challenge.

    Blvd. (Boulevard) bull-vuhd, or maybe bull-vd. Blard? Boh? Bohd? Bool (second cousin, maybe, to Ghostbusters’ Zool)?

    I am convinced that the abbreviation for boulevard can and will be pronounced – or corrupted into a slanged replacement. Just you wait and see – What will result from “updating” blvd., I shudder to imagine.

    Brad K.

  • Peter

    I just have to thank God that nothing has happened to the word, “Boulevard” (abbr. Blvd).

    What, you mean you’ve never heard it pronounced “blvd” (sounding vaguely like “blizzard”)?

    (Seriously, there’s nothing wrong with using abbreviations…as long as you know they’re abbreviations)

  • Andy Knoedler

    When I was a kid (a while ago now), I used to hear “Park Ave” referred to frequently in New York.

  • Trish

    I’ve heard “vee” for versus ever since my days as an intern in Washington DC (way back in the late 80s). It caught me off-guard then and, thankfully, I hear it less often these days.

    The only time I hear “av” is in respect to a club we have here, called ‘First Avenue.’ It’s commonly called ‘First Ave,’ which doesn’t bother me too much. People around here still say “avenue” so I have no complaints.

  • Walter Watterson

    Like other folks who’ve replied here, I’ve commonly heard “3rd Ave” spoken, but never –and I would cringe if I did hear it – “strolling down the ave”.

    Strangely, here in Portland, where all the streets that have numbers are Avenues (I live between 10th Avenue and 11th Avenue), it’s not uncommon to hear someone say, “on 39th Street”. There is no 39th Street in this city, but it’s easy to see how this happens. Just heaven help them if they are trying to get around in Manhattan.

  • nutmeag

    I just came across the generic “ave” last night in a book I was reading (Thunderbird Falls by CE Murphy). I’m used to hearing it in conjunction with a street name (West Ave), but that was a first for me generically. I didn’t bother me, though.

  • SharonH

    Even though this seems to be a common thing for many readers, I have to admit I’ve never heard “av” used verbally instead of avenue! I see it written as an abbreviation all the time, of course, but not spoken that way. I’m in Texas, and maybe we have just abbreviated other things, y’all.

  • kaiser

    Here in the Philippines, we use “AV” all the time for avenue. lol. it may seem stupid to others but that’s how it goes. =)

  • Jennifer

    I live in Texas and [Av] is totally used in everyday language. A lot of main streets or avenues in this case are shortened. I went to school at Penn State University and the main streets were College [Av] and Beaver [Av]…Who wants to say College Avenue.

  • Shirley, in Berkeley

    We say, “College” or “College Ave,” to mean College Avenue, and “San Pablo” or “San Pablo Ave,” to mean San Pablo Avenue, but in Berkeley, when someone says, “Let’s have lunch on the Ave,” you know they mean Telegraph Avenue.

    By the way, when did brackets become an acceptable replacement for quotation marks (e.g., [Av])? Did I miss something?

  • Maeve

    Shirley,
    I use brackets to indicate a pronunciation.

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